What We Are Reading Today: Controlling Contagion

What We Are Reading Today: Controlling Contagion
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Updated 24 June 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: Controlling Contagion

What We Are Reading Today: Controlling Contagion

Author: Sheilagh Ogilvie 

How do societies tackle epidemic disease? In “Controlling Contagion,” Sheilagh Ogilvie answers this question by exploring seven centuries of pandemics, from the Black Death to COVID-19.

For most of history, infectious diseases have killed many more people than famine or war, and in 2019 they still caused one death in four.


What We Are Reading Today: Virtual You

What We Are Reading Today: Virtual You
Updated 21 July 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: Virtual You

What We Are Reading Today: Virtual You

Authors: Peter Coveney & Roger Highfield

In this deeply illuminating book, Peter Coveney and Roger Highfield reveal what it will take to build a virtual, functional copy of a person in five steps. 

Along the way, they take you on a fantastic voyage through the complexity of the human body, describing the latest scientific and technological advances—from multiscale modelingto extraordinary new forms of computing—that will make “virtual you” a reality, while also considering the ethical questions inherent to realizing truly predictive medicine.


What We Are Reading Today: ‘Words and Distinctions for the Common Good’

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Updated 20 July 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: ‘Words and Distinctions for the Common Good’

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Author: GABRIEL ABEND

Social scientists do research on a variety of topics—gender, capitalism, populism, and race and ethnicity, among others. They make descriptive and explanatory claims about empathy, intelligence, neoliberalism, and power.

They advise policymakers on diversity, digitalization, work, and religion. And yet, as Gabriel Abend points out in this provocative book, they can’t agree on what these things are and how to identify them.

 

 


What We Are Reading Today: Capitalism in the Colonies: African Merchants in Lagos, 1851–1931

What We Are Reading Today: Capitalism in the Colonies: African Merchants in Lagos, 1851–1931
Updated 19 July 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: Capitalism in the Colonies: African Merchants in Lagos, 1851–1931

What We Are Reading Today: Capitalism in the Colonies: African Merchants in Lagos, 1851–1931

Author: A. G. Hopkins

In Capitalism in the Colonies, A. G. Hopkins provides the first substantial assessment of the fortunes of African entrepreneurs under colonial rule. Examining the lives and careers of 100 merchants in Lagos, Nigeria, between 1850 and 1931, Hopkins challenges conventional views of the contribution made by indigenous entrepreneurs to the long-run economic development of Nigeria. He argues that African merchants in Lagos not only survived, but were also responsible for key innovations in trade, construction, farming, and finance that are essential for understanding the development of Nigeria’s economy.
The book is based on a large, representative sample and covers a time span that traces mercantile fortunes over two and three generations.

Drawing on a wide range of sources, Hopkins shows that indigenous entrepreneurs were far more adventurous than expatriate firms. African merchants in Lagos pioneered motor vehicles, sewing machines, publishing, tanneries, and new types of internal trade.


What We Are Reading Today: ‘Raised to Obey’ by Augustina Paglayan

What We Are Reading Today: ‘Raised to Obey’ by Augustina Paglayan
Updated 18 July 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: ‘Raised to Obey’ by Augustina Paglayan

What We Are Reading Today: ‘Raised to Obey’ by Augustina Paglayan

Nearly every country today has universal primary education. But why did governments in the West decide to provide education to all children in the first place? The introduction of broadly accessible primary education was not mainly a response to industrialization, or fueled by democratic ideals, or even aimed at eradicating illiteracy or improving skills. It was motivated instead by elites’ fear of the masses—and the desire to turn the “savage,” “unruly,” and “morally flawed” children of the lower classes into well-behaved future citizens who would obey the state and its laws.


What We Are Reading Today: ‘The Dove’s Necklace’

What We Are Reading Today: ‘The Dove’s Necklace’
Updated 17 July 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: ‘The Dove’s Necklace’

What We Are Reading Today: ‘The Dove’s Necklace’

“The Dove's Necklace,” which is written by Saudi novelist Raja Alem and translated by Katharine Halls and Adam Talib, is a captivating and multilayered novel that transports readers to the vibrant city of Makkah.

Alem masterfully weaves together the stories of several intersecting characters, creating a rich tapestry that explores themes of identity, spirituality, and the complexities of human relationships. 

At the heart of the narrative is Jumana, a young woman whose life is irrevocably altered by the discovery of an ancient necklace. It becomes the catalyst for Jumana’s journey of self-discovery as she navigates the intense social and religious expectations of her community. 

Alem explores her characters’ inner lives in her lyrical and incredibly sensitive language. A significant layer of cultural and historical depth is added to the story by the author’s examination of Makkah as a separate character, as well as Jumana’s poignant struggle to balance her personal aspirations with the demands of her faith.

What struck me most about this novel was the author’s ability to weave together the diverse tapestry of Makkah’s inhabitants. As I followed the intersecting narratives of characters like the enigmatic Basima, the troubled artist Khalid, and the enigmatic Grandfather, I was repeatedly challenged to examine my own preconceptions and biases.

Alem’s nuanced portrayal of this community, with all its complexities and contradictions, felt like a revelation. 

“The Dove’s Necklace” is not merely a work of fiction but a bold exploration of the complexities of faith, tradition, and the search for meaning in a rapidly changing world. Alem’s skillful use of symbolism and metaphor, particularly in her treatment of the necklace itself, adds a layer of depth and complexity to the narrative. 

Despite the novel’s weighty themes, Alem’s storytelling is never heavy-handed or didactic. She allows the reader to engage with the characters and their experiences on a deeply personal level, inviting them to consider the universal questions of identity, belonging, and the quest for spiritual fulfillment. 

A fantastic piece of literature that cuts beyond genre and cultural borders, this book is a must-read for anyone interested in exploring the diverse canon of Middle Eastern literature.